Despite the incessant comparisons between FX's new series The Bastard Executioner and HBO's Game Of Thrones , they are very different when you dig a little deeper. For one, even though The Bastard Executioner also has fantastical moments, it is much more grounded in reality than GoT and features moments of actual history. But more importantly, The Bastard Executioner, at least in the pilot, faces an issue that Game Of Thrones has moved past in its five seasons: what to do with the female characters. There is so much potential for the women of The Bastard Executioner and yet the the first episode does not fully capitalize on it to let them develop. Luckily, there is still a chance for the women's storylines to expand over the course of the first season.
The series centers around Wilkin Brattle, a soldier who put down his sword after the horrors of battle in King Edward I's army. However, after his wife is murdered, Wilkin returns to the life of violence, as he helps kill the Baron whom he believes to be his wife's killer and is then stuck playing the role of an executioner for that very man's home. It's a complicated story that has an interesting future if creator Kurt Sutter (who also created Sons Of Anarchy) and his writers execute it properly. But it is unfortunate that Wilkin's wife, one of the strongest women in the two-hour series premiere, is killed off so suddenly.
When it comes to the other women in the series, the Baroness is given the most screen time. Unfortunately, the first time we see her is bent over in her bed as her husband has sex with her. He then stops and grumbles that once again this union will likely not bear any real fruit. The Baroness is then sent off to take a bath, and she clearly dislikes what has become of her life. While the pilot doesn't give the Baroness too much to do outside from trying to comfort her husband's worries about having a child and bonding with Wilkin after he comes the Executioner of her murdered husband's home, there is life and spark in this woman. We see it when she talks back to her husband's right-hand man Milus, and when she hints to her handmaiden that she needs more in her life.
I would love to see the Baroness become a much more powerful figure than who she is at the moment. Rather than just being Wilkin's silent friend in her home, she could be the one who takes power and control away from Milus, as he has basically taken over command from her fallen husband. It would be incredible to see the Baroness try and right the wrongs committed by the Baron and Milus, and rid the land of Milus, who is clearly being set up as the villain.
Of course, the strongest woman with the most potential for a fascinating story is Annora, played by the always badass Katey Sagal. While this role is not yet as incredibly rich and complex as Sagal's work as Gemma Teller in Sons of Anarchy, Annora is still the most intriguing character on The Bastard Executioner. She is a mysterious healer who journeys far and tends to run into Wilkin when he needs her the most. She heals him after he is stabbed in battle, and helps to disguise him as the executioner when he returns the Baron's body to his home.
Annora is also the most likely suspect of being the actual murderer of Wilkin's wife. She possesses the knife that killed the pregnant woman and clearly has plans for Wilkin that we will certainly find out as the series progresses. But once again, until we see how many strings Annora is actually pulling, from the outside it looks as though she serves one major purpose only: To get Wilkin to pick up his sword once again. I want more time with Annora, not just to get the answer about whether or not she did kill Wilkin's wife, but also to gain better insight to her as an individual outside of Wilkin's journey.
Overall, The Bastard Executioner just needs more to devote more time to the women of its story. It's established a great foundation, and now it's time to build these characters up.
Images: Ollie Upton/FX; FX